What is Good Moral Character?
Good moral character is an immigration law concept. Good moral character is as much about the absence of specific conduct, as it is about the presence of other conduct. The definition of Good Moral Character (GMC) is found at INA §101(f) and prohibits certain behavior such as being a drunkard, a prostitute, lying to obtain immigration benefits, being a polygamist, committing certain crimes, being a drug trafficker, or being a habitual gambler.
The GMC definition at INA §101(f) also has a ‘catch-all’ provision that states that an officer is not limited to the list found in section 101(f), in evaluating an applicant’s conduct.
When immigration professionals talk about GMC, they are usually talking about it in the context of applying for naturalization. For naturalization applications, applicants must show that they’ve had good moral character for the 3 or 5 years immediately preceding the filing of their application.
So, what can an applicant do to bolster their good moral character?
Improving Good Moral Character
The following activities and conduct can show that you do have good moral character. Additionally, because many immigration benefits are discretionary, many of these activities can help improve your chances of receiving a discretionary benefit.
- Tax Returns: Be sure to file your federal income tax returns. Additionally, be sure to pay any monies owed or establish a re-payment plan.
- Child Support: If you have minor children who do not reside with you, be prepared to show that you comply with any child support court orders. Or, if no such order exists, be ready to show that you are financially supporting your minor child(ren).
- Family Ties: Highlight your strong family ties, including children, a spouse, parents, aunts, and uncles. You can demonstrate family ties with affidavits or birth certificates.
- Employment History: If you have a history of stable employment, you can submit letters from your employer and former employers demonstrating your reliability.
- Education History: If you graduated from high school, have an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or a higher-level degree submitting proof of that looks good to an immigration official.
- Community Service: Community service always looks good and shows that you are invested in your local community.
- Church Membership: Membership in a church always looks good, and also shows that you are invested in your community.
- Property Ownership: Owning property, including a home, vehicles, or items of value, demonstrates that you are responsible and have a steady income.
- Selective Service: If you are male between the ages of 18-25, you should speak with an immigration attorney to see if you are required to register for the selective service.
- Probation or Parole: If you are on probation, parole, or a period of a suspended sentence, wait until you have successfully completed your period of probation or parole before filing for any immigration benefits.
If you would like information about good moral character or naturalization, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in complex naturalization cases with good moral character issues. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help!